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New York Times asks Twitter to help cut off paywall-curbing aggregators

FreeNYTimesTwitter

The New York Times is looking to Twitter for some help.

The national newspaper is launching a paywall for its website on March 28 and is already working to stop Twitter users looking to exploit one of its major loopholes, according to a report from Forbes.

The impending paywall will allow readers of nytimes.com to see up to 20 articles, photo galleries, videos and other pieces of content online per month. If a reader wants to see content beyond the 20-item limit they'll have to sign up for a digital subscription, which ranges from $15 to $35 for four weeks.

But the New York Times has created a pretty big loophole in its paywall.

Any nytimes.com articles linked from Twitter or Facebook can be viewed independent of the 20-item per month limit. The loophole was built into the paywall system and is a bit of an acknowledgement of the growing importance of social media sites to the business of journalism and how people get their news.

Unlike with Facebook and Twitter, the New York Times is allowing only five articles per day, per reader, for those who get nytimes.com content from Google searches. 

The Wall Street Journal has had a paywall for some time and leaves all Google-linked articles open to readers.

The Forbes report said the New York Times has asked Twitter to help shut down the account @FreeNYTimes, a feed that tweets a link to every story published on nytimes.com to help readers get around the paywall.

"In this case, the perpetrator seems to be a web developer who used the Times' own API [application programming interface] to automate the process," the Forbes report said.

The description of @FreeNYTimes states the Twitter account's purpose as "NYTimes articles as they're published. Read more than your 20 articles/month allotment, because you came from Twitter! Data provided by The New York Times."

Officials at the New York Times and Twitter were unavailable for comment on the Forbes report on Tuesday afternoon.

But, in the article, a spokeswoman for the newspaper said "We have asked Twitter to disable this feed as it is in violation of our trademark." Forbes also said that the New York Times has alerted Twitter to other similar paywall-dodging accounts that it wants taken down.

The Neiman Journalism Lab on Tuesday reported on NYTClean, a bookmark app for Web browsers that "in one click, tears down the Times' paywall" designed by David Hayes, a Canadian programmer.

NYTClean reportedly was able to skirt the paywall with just four lines of code, the Neiman Lab said.

On his website, Hayes said he built NYTClean after realizing the March 28 paywall was already in effect in Canada, where the paper is testing its new system before worldwide rollout.

"I've gotten thousands, tens of thousands of hits since this went up yesterday, especially considering this was a lunchtime project," Hayes said of NYTClean on his site. "You just can't see a wall like this without wondering how you can get around it. I love the New York Times, don't say that I forced you to not pay for it."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screenshot of the @FreeNYTimes Twitter account. Credit: Twitter

 
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